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on Jan. 18, 2012 :
So, the overriding theme of this collection of short stories is death. Depressing right? Well maybe if done incorrectly but in this case I'd have to describe it as more like bittersweet and even beautiful. But having said that I did find that the whole premise began to wear a bit thin towards the middle when I hit upon, in my opinion, the weakest story 'Lorelei Remembers' and also when the same setups of mother, father, children, families, sickness and death started to reappear in quick succession. I soon found myself wishing that a few other genres such as romance would be put into the mix just to shake up the growing melancholy and soon to ensue tedium that I expected. But as I read on I soon came to accept and appreciate the bravery and tallent of the author to commit to and express so successfully such a difficult theme.
From the first to the last story every one got better and better. From the quirky and touching 'One Hundred Breaths' (which I felt was flawed and not as well written as the others) to the clever and intriguing idea of 'Whole'. The ambitious yet disappointing slump that was 'Lorelei Remembers' to the heartfelt and beautiful 'What To Say To Someone Who's Dying' (which I have to say was my favourite of all the stories and actually brought a lump to my throat on more than one occasion in the very short time that it lasted). Not forgetting the thought provoking and subtle joy that was 'Beekeeping' which literally had me smelling the flowers and tasting the honey in places due to the talent of Chanel's descriptive writing.
The one BIG problem I had with all five of the stories though was their frustratingly disappointing endings. Every single one of them finished so abruptly and so weakly that it rendered each story incomplete and ultimately unsatisfying to me. Except ironically, my least favourite story 'Lorelei Remembers' which actually did have an ending that felt like an ending. With the other four nothing felt wrapped up. No revelations, no satisfying conclusions not even a dodgy cliff hanger. Nothing! And this was such a big let down for me because I loved the stories so much and to end them as successfully as the main stories had been constructed would have made this book almost perfect for me but alas no such luck.
Despite this I didn't finish the book feeling as suicidally unsatisfied as you'd expect. On the contrary. I actually felt quite content and pleased that I had been able to dip into and experience these five little flawed gems and lets face it, even a cracked diamond is still a pretty special thing to find right?
I am now a fan of Chanel Earl and I look forward to reading whatever else she has to offer :)
Also, great cover!
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Abi Gundlach Graham
on Oct. 31, 2011 :
This is a fantastic and engaging book! Although the title emphasizes death and dying, Earl uses death as a way to explore other aspects of life, particularly love and relationships. For me, the stories prompted self-reflection and conversation; the stories are short, but they'll stay with you!
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Oct. 06, 2011 :
I have been friends with the author of this book for a long time. Reading this book was a joy. It reminded me of why we've always been such good friends. I loved the glimpse into her mind and the way she thinks. I enjoyed all 5 stories but there were two that were my very favorite.
In "One Hundred Breaths" we get to explore what death means to a small child. Through a child's eyes we explore, "What is death?", "What are ghosts?", "Where do we go when we die?"
We learn, through a child, that though we may lose loved ones, "We will see [them] again. But not here, and certainly not in the same way we saw [them] before."
In "Whole" my nerdiness was giddy with all the talk of numbers. From the lovers who communicate in binary, to the child whose moment of birth was a palindrome. I even appreciated that the Schoonover family numbered forty two people with all their grandchildren.
I also loved watching a family that knows only a world of logic and numbers try to cope with the reality of death. It was powerful and moving.
All in all, I really enjoyed this short book. You could easily read it in an afternoon and it would be worth every minute.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)